Breathes there a man,
with soul so dead,
who never to himself
“This is my own.
My native land”.
Since Edinburgh's literary heritage tends to get swept aside by more frolicsome pursuits at Festival time, the Edinburg Literary Pub Tour is a welcome reminder of just how deeply steeped in fine verse and are the city's grey old courts and wynds.
Dragging poetically minded tourists into various beery, bardy haunts, Keith Baylis makes and admirably irascible Scotsman, arguing that Edinburgh's poetic is mired in beer and sawdust and debauchery. Beside him, young Alisdair Tait maintains a more high flown version of events, until eventually their dichotomy is fused: beer and poetry, as Burns well knew, make splendid bedfellows. "Oh thou, my Muse! Guid auld Scotch Drink!" he sang, and sings still, across two centuries.
And sure to stand in an ancient courtyard outside the Jolly Judge and hear Tait hoarsely signing Burns's poem Ae Fond Kiss by the dying light of a rainy evening (" Me, nae chearfu' twinkle lights me/ Dark despair around benights me") makes a splendid chaser after one too many pints of festival culture.